Guest Post with Giveaway ~ The Chocolate Bunny Brouhaha by JoAnna Carl

Now and then I get an invitation to speak, and I nearly always pick the topic “Fun with Research.”

     That’s because I think research is truly important to the mystery story, and because I always have fun doing it. Especially doing research about chocolate.

     The part about research being important to the mystery story is easy to see. If the clues and the background in a mystery are not accurate, the whole thing becomes unbelievable, and nobody wants to read it.

     The part about research being fun results from of my usual method of finding things out. I just ask somebody. I find somebody who knows and ask them. Talking to people is always fun.

I’ve never had anybody refuse to answer a question. I’ll admit that I often pick the subjects for clues in my books because I know someone who will help me out.

This research method led to the creation of the Chocoholic books. An editor asked me to write a proposal for a cozy, and the coziest background I could think of was chocolate. Besides, I just happened to have a daughter who was working for a chocolate company. Duh? Who else can you call at ten o’clock at night and ask the melting point of chocolate?

     The editor also liked the idea. Then one problem arose. The Chocoholic books were classified as “Culinary” mysteries, and Culinary mysteries usually have recipes. But my editor and I thought the type of high quality chocolate in the books was not ideal for the typical household cook. The editor suggested “Lore” instead – interesting facts about chocolate.

And when it came to writing the “Lore” parts of the Chocoholic books – well, my talented and practical daughter wasn’t going to cut it even if she was in the chocolate business. I had to find somebody with more authority than a bright and intelligent young woman who was basically a business manager. (If this seems familiar, it’s because my detective, Lee Woodyard, through sixteen books has held a job similar to the one my daughter had in those days. As a fictional character, by the way, Lee is not a lot like that particularly daughter, except that they’re both awfully nice people.)

So for Lore research I found I had to read books. I didn’t mind that. It gives me an excuse to learn about one of my favorite topics: chocolate. Its history and science are fascinating.

The Spanish explored the New World looking for gold, for example, but chocolate may have eventually been a more valuable find.

     Of course, in those days the chocolate bar had not been invented. Chocolate was only a drink. One tale that I find interesting is that in Spain young women began to have their maids bring them chocolate during mass, since drinking it was recommended to fight feelings of weakness. (We all know how weak a young girl can feel in church.) When a priest who opposed this practice died under mysterious circumstances, scandal ensued.

Now there’s a motive I definitely couldn’t think of on my own.

And for years churchmen argued over whether chocolate was a food or a drink. Could it be drunk during Lent?

Another religious group involved with chocolate was the Quakers. A bunch of English businessmen, all Quakers, supported early efforts to mechanize the manufacture of chocolate and were prominent in its manufacture and sale. They demanded a high moral code for their industry, even insisting on good treatment for workers in the tropical countries where chocolate was grown. Today’s Fair Trade movement probably thinks it came up with something new, but those Quaker businessmen had the same basic idea.

In England, one of the group, Cadbury’s, even established a model town to house its workers. Interestingly, Milton Hershey did the same thing during the next century in Pennsylvania. Who would have thought that chocolate could be linked to a social conscience?

A lot of the people of chocolate history are fascinating, from the Marquis de Sade to Forrest Mars. Cardinal Richelieu is even sometimes given credit for introducing chocolate to France. Yes, that was the guy who according to the novelist Dumas gave so much trouble to Anne of Austria and the Three Musketeers. The cardinal supposedly drank chocolate for medicinal reasons.

The science of chocolate has an interesting history as well. For several centuries chocolate was promoted as a medicine or an aid to good health.

Even today chocolate has been cited as being good for lowering blood pressure, for example. As for the sugar that often accompanies chocolate – well, it gets a different report.

Joe and Teresa Graedon, who write The Peoples Pharmacy column carried by many newspapers, offer a pamphlet on the health benefits and threats of chocolate – including recipes – that even a scientific dummy like me can understand.

For the history of chocolate my main source is The True History of Chocolate by Sophie D. Coe and Michael D. Coe.

     But researching chocolate is fascinating to me, and not just because I’m an absolute freak for the stuff. Writing about it gives me a built-in excuse to visit any chocolate shop I pass. There’s the one in Washington D.C. where I first saw chocolate-covered bacon. There’s the chocolate garden in Michigan, with chocolate-colored plants. There’s the store in Lawton, Oklahoma, that stocks every kind of old-fashioned chocolate bar. And I get a specialty catalog that even offers Walnettos. You have to be old – like me – to remember Walnettos. They’re not chocolate, but still good. And they take me right back to my childhood.

     I may have to quit writing and go buy myself a Cherry Mash.

     Yum, yum!

bunnySeries: Chocoholic Mystery (Book 16)
Publisher: Berkley (November 1, 2016)
Genre: English
ISBN-10: 0451473825
ISBN-13: 978-0451473820
Buy: Amazon, Kindle, IndieBound, The Book Depository


From the national bestselling author of The Chocolate Falcon Fraud comes an Easter candy caper featuring chocolatiers Lee Woodyard and her Aunt Nettie, and a killer who’s hopping mad…

The approach of Easter means a rush of business at TenHuis Chocolade, and Lee  and her Aunt Nettie need all the help they can get to make their famous chocolate bunnies. Unfortunately, new hire Bunny Birdsong is a clutzy basketcase dropping everything she picks up. But to Lee’s surprise, she’s a whiz with computers and fixing the store’s website so they decide to keep her.
However, Bunny receives a few visitors they could do without: her soon to be ex-husband Beau, his wealthy aunt Abigail, and his new girlfriend and her brother all descend on the shop one day and have a bitter argument. Lee hopes they can find a peaceful way to settle their dispute and not bring any more trouble to TenHuis. But when Abigail’s body is discovered in the vacant store next door, it’s clear to Lee there’s a bad egg in her midst. Now she’s on the hunt to find out who it is…

Includes tasty chocolate trivia! 

post-divider leftThanks to the publisher, I have one (1) copy of The Chocolate Bunny Brouhaha to give away.

Giveaway open to residents of the US only.
Giveaway ends on December 9th

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Winner will have 48 hours from the time of notification to confirm their win or another winner will be chosen.

post-divider right

joannaJoAnna Carl and Eve K. Sandstrom both write mystery novels which rely on regional settings for atmosphere, background and clues.


JoAnna writes about the shores of Lake Michigan and has been reviewed in Michigan newspapers as a “regional writer.”

Eve writes about Southwest Oklahoma and once won an award for the best book of the year with an Oklahoma setting.

It’s no particular secret that Eve and JoAnna occupy the same body.

Talk about your split personalities!

But how did this happen?

Eve K. Sandstrom is an Oklahoman to the teeth: she was born there, as were five previous generations of her mother’s family. Both her grandfathers and her father were in the oil business, once the backbone of Oklahoma’s economy. One grandmother was born in the Choctaw Nation, and Eve is a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. Eve and seven other members of her immediate family are graduates of the University of Oklahoma. Eve even knows the second verse of “Boomer Sooner.”

Eve wrote two mystery series: the “Down Home” books, set on a ranch in Southwest Oklahoma, and the Nell Matthews mysteries, semi-hard-boiled books laid in a mid-size city on the Southern Plains.

But Eve married a great guy whose family owned a cottage on the east coast of Lake Michigan, not far from the Michigan towns of Fennville, Saugatuck, and Douglas. Every summer for more than forty years she, her husband and various combinations of children and grandchildren have trekked to the community of Pier Cove for vacations that lasted from two weeks to three months.

The area features gorgeous beaches, lush orchards, thick woods, and beautiful Victorian houses. Eve grew to love it. So when her editor asked her to come up with a new mystery series, Eve set it in a West Michigan resort town, scrambling up Saugatuck, Douglas, South Haven, Holland, Manistee, Ludington and Muskegon with her own ideas of what a resort ought to be to create Warner Pier.

As further background, she plunked her heroine into a business which produces and sells luscious, luxurious, European-style bonbons, truffles and molded chocolates. Most small towns couldn’t support a business like this, but the resorts of West Michigan – with their wealthy “summer people” and tourists – can. The “Chocoholic Mysteries” were on their way.

Eve’s editor requested that she use a pen name for the new series, and Eve picked the middle names of her three children, Betsy Jo, Ruth Anna, and John Carl. “JoAnna Carl” was born.

So that’s how JoAnna/Eve became a regional author in two widely separated regions.

JoAnna/Eve earned a degree in journalism at the University of Oklahoma and also studied with Carolyn G. Hart and Jack Bickham in the OU Creative Writing Program. She spent more than twenty-five years in the newspaper business, working as a reporter, editor, and columnist at The Lawton Constitution in Lawton, Oklahoma. She took an early retirement to write fiction full-time.

She and her husband, David F. Sandstrom, have three grandchildren, whom they love introducing to the lore of their two homes – Oklahoma and Michigan.

Website * Goodreadsjoanna AT joannacarl DOT com


Chocoholic Mysteries



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  1. This is one of my favorite cozy series!  


  2. Who knew chocolate was so interesting?! A chocolate garden?! I'm all for gardens and definitely all for chocolate….but a chocolate garden?! I'm sitting here with my mouth hanging open. 🙂 

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